Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

M.A. in Southern Studies

Department

Southern Studies

First Advisor

Andrew Harper

Second Advisor

Ted Ownby

Third Advisor

Kathryn McKee

Relational Format

dissertation/thesis

Abstract

Human beings integrate their environment into their group identities. Familiar plants and animals become associated with cultural memories through food, music, and everyday interaction. When species enter a new environment and change the composition of species within a space these plants and animals challenge assumptions of cultural unity and national and regional identities. In the Colonial era European arrivals brought plants and animals for economic and aesthetic purposes to maintain cultural traditions and environmental familiarity. This practice changed following the rise of nationalism in the late 19 th century. Americans continued to grow crops and raise livestock from other countries but began to perceive plants and animals within the nation as superior to those from other areas. This did not lessen the amount of global species movement, which has only increased over time as a result of capitalist expansion. This tension between the value Americans place on specific plants and animals and the need for global flows of people and goods reaches its height in the present day, as species movement reaches unprecedented levels. Words like invasive and alien have historical ties to xenophobia, and their use may exacerbate fear of specific plants and animals. An appreciation of the changes in North America over the continent's history as well as the historical association of terminology within invasion biology will increase the likelihood of unbiased research and policy. The film Asian Invasion accompanies this work to illustrate 21st century perspectives on species movement and provide a visual representation of the cultural phenomena described in this written work.

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